Nearly three-fourths of arrestees in the criminal justice system could be helped, prisons could be unclogged, and recidivism could be reduced by one-third with drug treatment of criminal offenders through drug courts, says an Urban Institute study being released today. The study is being released today at a meeting in St. Louis of tfhe National Association of Drug Court Professionals attended by former federal drug czar Barry McCaffrey and actress Melanie Griffith. The large majority of offenders being handled by drug courts “are nonviolent and can be safely and successfully treated in the community with the appropriate degree of supervision,” McCaffrey says.
The study found that nearly 1.5 million arrestees are legally and clinically eligible for drug courts, which require effective treatment under the close supervision of a specially trained judge and court team. Only 55,000 arrestees are now receiving such supervised treatment. The study says that if all 1.47 million at-risk arrestees were treated, there would be $46 billion in savings for $13.7 billion in cost – a benefit of $3.36 for every dollar, in addition to benefits of the reduction in drug addiction and crime. Justice Department studies have found that 68 percent of arrestees test positive for illegal drugs, compared to 6 percent of the general population; the Urban Institute study likewise emphasizes the drug-crime nexus. Among the studys findings are that crime is 4-6 times higher under the influence of drugs, and arrests drop by 34 percent the first year after treatment intake. There are now over two million people in our nations federal, state, and local prison systems.